A Melancholy Celebration as Space Shuttle Atlantis is Moved to Her Final Home

On Friday, November 2, 2012, the Kennedy Space Center launch facilities were left without an orbiter in the program for the first time since 1979.

At 6:30am, Atlantis began her 9.8 mile journey from the KSC Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to her new permanent home at the KSC Visitors Center just outside the secure KSC launch facilities. As she rolled out of the VAB for her last mission, she was greeted by members of the team that had cared for Atlantis over the years since being put into commission in April 1985.

There was a palpable sadness in the air — from the Atlantis team that had put so much of their lives into the orbiter; to the press corps that have covered the shuttle missions over the years; as well as the KSC and USA staff involved in so many launches and landings of the beautiful spacecraft.

One Atlantis team member recited this fitting saying, often attributed to Dr. Seuss, “Don’t cry because it’s over – smile because it happened.” It set the mood perfectly in the chilly predawn morning as they watched Atlantis leaving her working facilities for the final time. The workers, some who have already lost their jobs as shuttle operations ended, carried a banner that read “We Made History – Atlantis” as they walked behind the orbiter.

Atlantis team members say goodbye as she is rolled from the VAB for the last time

Atlantis, the last shuttle to fly in space, rode atop 76 wheels on the Orbiter Transporter System (OTS) for her final journey, with a top speed of only 2 miles per hour. The orbiter weight was 154,000 lbs., and with the transporter, the combined vehicles weighed well over 300,000 lbs. as they made their way on the roads from the VAB to the Visitors Center. In order to avoid having obstacles in the way of her move, 120 light poles, 23 traffic signals, and 56 traffic signs had to be removed to ensure a clear path during transport.

As Atlantis travels Kennedy Parkway, traffic lights and road signs had to be removed from her path

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A Behind-the-Scenes Tour of the Future Home of Space Shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Visitor Center

CitySurfing Orlando was given a behind-the-scenes tour of the new construction at the Kennedy Visitor Center that will house space shuttle Atlantis which was moved on November 2, 2012.

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Although not a lot of specifics are being released to the public yet, we can report that the project is budgeted at around $100 million.

The new building will be about 90,000 square feet of space to show off not only Atlantis, but hardware associated with the launch pad (remember the “beanie cap” that was raised from the external tank right before launch? They’ve got the actual one from Pad 39B on exhibit!) and models of the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as lots of hands-on interactive exhibits.

Our hardhat tour was led by Tim Macy, Director of Project Development & Construction for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Mr. Macy has a very impressive background in working with public displays, including developing and planning of Olympic facilities in Atlanta and Sydney, and managing Navy Pier in Chicago.

He has been involved with preparing the Atlantis facility for over 2 years, and is excited to have Atlantis finally arrive at her permanent home. He told of the exceptional care that is being taken to ensure that Atlantis will be maintained as a national treasure for future generations, including special LED lighting that won’t harm the orbiter with ultraviolet or infrared rays.

Visitors will enter the building by walking between a mock-up of 2 solid rocket boosters, under an attached external tank, and then through various exhibits in a switchback configuration, taking them higher in the building. After turning a corner they will suddenly come face-to-face with Atlantis, poised as though in space flight, with her bay doors open.

There will be handheld units that allow a virtual view under the skin of the orbiter, with an almost x-ray vision. From there, guests can walk around, even underneath the Atlantis, and enjoy all of the other exhibits and displays that tell the story of the 30 year Shuttle program, as well as giving a view of what we can expect in future space exploration.

There are lots of other exciting surprises that will await those that visit the exhibit when it opens in July of 2013.

Be sure to check out our coverage of the final move of Atlantis. We’ll have pictures and coverage from the time Atlantis leaves the Vehicle Assembly Building, until she arrives at the Visitor Center after a 10 mile journey.

Here are some photos from the tour of the future home of Atlantis:

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Space Shuttle Atlantis to Make Final Journey at Kennedy Space Center on November 2

Fans of the Space Shuttle Program will have their last opportunity to see Atlantis on the move when it makes its historic final journey on November 2, 2012, at Kennedy Space Center.

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During this trip, Atlantis will travel nearly 10 miles from Kennedy Space Center to its new home at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

The move will begin at 7am when Atlantis leaves Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at about 2 miles per hour on the 106-foot-long Orbiter Transporter System. The orbiter will make its way to Kennedy Space Center headquarters where at about 9:45am thousands of current NASA employees and former shuttle workers are scheduled to attend a private event that will include a ceremony to mark the transfer of Atlantis to the visitor complex.

Atlantis will then head to Space Florida’s Exploration Park, a 65-acre area that will provide a festival setting for a half-day event where guests can see the shuttle up close. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana and the space shuttle astronauts from STS-135, the final shuttle and Atlantis mission, are also expected to attend.

Exploration Park will also feature spaceflight and exploration exhibits provided by several space industry partners and NASA, including the Orion Crew Module.

The Exploration Park portion of the day is open to those purchasing the special Explorer Package, which includes regular Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex admission.

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“The final trip of Atlantis will be the very last time anyone is going to see a space shuttle in motion or out in the open, making it a truly unique and momentous viewing opportunity,” said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, which operates the visitor complex for NASA.

Atlantis will then leave Exploration Park and complete the final leg of its journey, traveling in front of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex along State Road 405/NASA Parkway before entering its new home, a $100 million interactive exhibit complex currently under construction and set to open in July 2013.

In order to make the trip happen, NASA and Delaware North had to remove and replace 120 light poles, 23 traffic signals, 56 traffic signs and one high-voltage power line to make way for the orbiter.

After the approximate 6pm arrival, a 10-minute fireworks show will illuminate the skies of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, providing the grand finale to an extraordinary day.

Explorer Package and regular visitor complex admission holders, through the Rollover Package, can witness the last part of Atlantis’s journey as it enters the visitor complex.

Below are details of the two ticket packages being offered for Nov. 2:

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See Space Shuttle Endeavour One Last Time at Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has put together some special viewing events for the space shuttle Endeavour before it heads for its future home in California.

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On September 14 and 15, KSC will have a bus tour that includes a drive-by of Endeavour and the specially designed Boeing 747 that will carry it cross-country, as well as Launch Pad 39-A and the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Cost is $20 for those over 12 and $14 ages 3-11, in addition to regular admission.

Then, on September 17, visitors will be able to view the beginning of Endeavour’s trip to its new home. Guests can watch as it crosses above the KSC complex’s Rocket Garden. This is included with regular admission. However, for an additional $40, you can view the take-off from the limited seating area at the Shuttle Landing facility.

Until then, Endeavour is currently in the KSC’s Vehicle Assembly Building, and guests that take the special tour of that building will be able to get up close to the shuttle.

Next year, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will open a specially built area that will house the space shuttle Atlantis, the only one to remain in Florida.

Regular admission to KSC is $50 over 12 and $40 ages 3-11. During the month of September, you can save $5 if you purchase in advance online.

For more info or to purchase tickets, go to kennedyspacecenter.com or call 877-313-2610.

[Photo courtesy of NASA]

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